The overachievers at the Berkeley-Stanford Cleantech Conference put on their fifth event yesterday in San Francisco -- Electric Car 2.0: Who Will Win the Race?  Here are some notes and observations on the event and some very recent news in EVs and batteries.


In 2009, China overtook the U.S. as the world's largest car market, according to Automotive World, a first since the Ford Model T started shipping.  China shipped more than thirteen million cars in 2009 versus the ten million shipped by the United States. 

But get this: according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, China had 22 million cars on the road in 2005, and the forecast is that China will have 295 million cars on the road by 2030, an increase of 1340 percent (!).

China already has tens of millions of electric bikes and scooters on the road; electric motorcycles are the fastest growing transportation sector in China.  Most of these vehicles are powered by lead-acid batteries, although lithium-ion batteries are starting to come on the scene, as well.

While we're on the subject of China, here's a video of electric vehicle aspirant BYD's E6 from a recent auto show. 

California Public Utilities Commission Dian Grueneich

Keynote speaker and Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission Dian Grueneich -- fresh from christening the Tehachapi transmission line -- said that "This has to be a race in which everyone is a winner, fundamentally to address global warming.  Global warming is real, very serious and we have very little time to deal with it."

She added, "A grave concern we have is if the EVs are all plugged in -- it will drive up the need for peak power.  We need to charge in off-peak hours."

Grueneich raised some other questions: How are we going to quantify EV system costs and benefits? The benefits of EVs are societal but who should bear the costs? What about someone who doesn't own a car and uses public transit? Who pays for this?  And interestingly, are the providers of electric charging like Coulomb subject to PUC jurisdiction?  Since they sell power, do they have to be classified as utilities?

Rob Day just wrote a good piece about EVs and Investor-Owned Utilities.  We covered utility-scale storage technologies here.

Battery Pricing

First-generation batteries for electrified cars and trucks are expensive, although prices will decline as manufacturing volume increases.  At recent U.S. prices per kilowatt-hour of energy storage capacity, the battery packs add about $36,000 to the cost of a Tesla Roadster, as much as $16,000 to the price of a Nissan Leaf, and almost $11,000 to the cost of a Chevrolet Volt, according to the DOE.

Marc Tarpenning, co-founder of Tesla Motors

  • The big guys are going to move slower; startups still have an opportunity.
  • There are changes in policy that need to happen with regard to charging.
  • Must be a standard plug -- this has to be standardized
  • At the moment only utilities can sell power -- this needs to change
  • Charging has to be coordinated

Marques McCammon Chief Marketing Office Aptera

  • Aptera's representative claimed to have the most energy-efficient production vehicles in the world without any compromise.  They have pushed a "physics-based approach to design."
  • Despite selling one million units, "The Prius is still a niche vehicle."

Dan Mosher, CFO of Coda Automotive

  • "We plan to offer a safe and affordable EV sedan that gets 100 to 120 miles per charge, priced in the the low $30,000 range after incentives."
  • The firm also plans to sell their battery to other OEMs. 
  • The lithium-ion battery pack used in the sedan is a 34 kilowatt-hour unit that weighs 700 pounds.  According to Mosher, if that was a lead-acid battery, it would have weighed 3,500 pounds.


VC Investment in EVs and Batteries

Earth2Tech just reported that Fisker boosted its latest equity funding round to $175 million.

International Battery (IB), a manufacturer of large-format, rechargeable lithium-ion cells, batteries, and systems, announced today the first closing of its $35 million Round C financing round, led by Digital Power Capital, an affiliate of Wexford Capital. The company’s low-cost, water-based manufacturing process avoids the use of toxic solvents.  We'll get you more details about these deals in the coming days.  


DOE Funding for Batteries and EVs

The Energy Department has awarded a total of $34,573,810 for battery research projects in a program called Batteries for Electrical Energy Storage in Transportation, or BEES.  Here's a list of the award recipients, partner companies or agencies, funding amounts, project locations and project descriptions:

Sion Power, Tucson, Ariz. (BASF, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)


Lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery: The project seeks to develop an ultra-high-energy Li-S battery that can power electric vehicles for more than 300 miles between charges. The approach uses new manufacturing processes and six physical barrier layers to address cycle life and safety.

Revolt Technology, Portland, Ore.


Zinc air-flow battery: A large, high-energy zinc air-flow battery will be developed to enable long range plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Zinc, suspended as a slurry, is stored in a tank and transported through tubes to charge and discharge the battery.

PolyPlus Battery, Berkeley, Calif.  (Corning Inc.)


Lithium-air battery: Rechargeable Li-air batteries for electric vehicle applications will be developed using protected lithium metal cathodes. This approach has a clear path to scaling commercially, and the batteries may rival the energy density of gasoline.

Pellion Technologies  Menlo Park, Calif.  (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bar-Ilan University)


Magnesium-ion battery: The project will develop an inexpensive, rechargeable magnesium-ion battery for electric and hybrid-electric vehicle applications. Computational methods and accelerated chemical synthesis will be used to develop new materials and chemistries. If successful, this project will develop the first commercial magnesium-ion battery and establish U.S. technology leadership in a new field.

Applied Materials  Santa Clara, Calif.  (A123 Systems, Inc., Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)


Advanced lithium-ion battery manufacturing: Low-cost, ultra-high-energy lithium-ion batteries will be developed using an innovative manufacturing process. High-energy cathodes will be integrated with new anodes and prototype manufacturing will be demonstrated that could achieve an extremely low cost. If successful, this project will establish U.S. leadership in the manufacturing of high-energy, low-cost advanced lithium-ion batteries.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology  Cambridge, Mass.   (A123 Systems, Inc., Rutgers University)


Novel semi-solid rechargeable flow battery: This is a new battery concept that combines the best aspects of rechargeable batteries and fuel cells. It could enable batteries for electric vehicles that are much lighter, smaller and cheaper than today's batteries. This flow battery potentially could cost less than one-eighth the price of today's batteries, which could lead to widespread adoption of affordable electric vehicles.

Planar Energy Devices  Orlando, Fla.
(National Renewable Energy Laboratory, UC San Diego, University of Central Florida, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Florida, University of South Florida)


Solid-state lithium battery: This project seeks to develop an ultra-high-energy, long cycle-life, all solid-state lithium battery that can be manufactured using low-cost techniques. Pilot-scale manufacturing of the batteries will be demonstrated using all inorganic materials and solid-state electrolytes whose properties are similar to existing liquid electrolytes.

Stanford University   Stanford, Calif.   (Honda, Applied Materials Inc.)


Novel all-electron battery: Researchers will seek to develop an "all-electron battery," a completely new class of electrical energy storage devices for electric vehicles. The new battery stores energy by moving electrons rather than ions and uses a novel architecture that has potential for very high energy density.

Recapping   University Park, Penn.; Menlo Park, Calif.  (Penn State University)


Capacitive storage: The project will develop a novel energy storage device – a high-energy-density capacitor -- based on a 3D nano-composite structure. The approach combines the benefits of high cycling ability, high power density and low cost.

Missouri University of Science & Technology  Rolla, Mo.
(Brookhaven National Laboratory, MaxPower Inc., NanoLab Inc.)


Lithium-air battery: A new high-energy air cathode will be created to enable the successful development of ultra-high-energy lithium-air batteries. The project will seek to dramatically improve cathode performance through the development of a new electrode structure and improved catalysts.